Why it hurts so bad when INFJs are misunderstood

Misunderstood INFJ

So many INFJ women tell me they feel misunderstood. They want, just once, for someone to get them.

As humans, I believe we're all wired for connection with other humans. There are a whole lot of people walking around feeling misunderstood, not just us INFJs. Being misunderstood is not a unique INFJ quality, but it's often the number one frustration for INFJs. Why does it cut so deeply when we feel misunderstood? Let's take a look.

A person's dominant cognitive function—the one that is most comfortable for them—determines if they're primarily concerned with perceiving (taking in information) or judging (making decisions). The dominant cognitive function for INFJs is a perceiving function. A person's perceiving function describes how they like to take in information. There are two preferences for perceiving according to Myers-Briggs: intuition (N) or sensing (S). As an INFJ, you use intuition. Since your dominant cognitive function is introverted intuition, your primary concern is taking in new information through your intuition. If you're confused by the J at the end of your INFJ because it means judging, read this.

Why does feeling misunderstood hurt so bad?

As I just shared, your main goal is to take in information. To understand. You want to understand people, how they work, and why they do the things they do. Cognitively speaking, this is your greatest interest. Your brain is wired to constantly take in information, find patterns, and make it all fit together. It's always on and always working to help you make sense of things.

Because we make understanding others such a priority, it really hurts when we don't receive understanding in return. Even if someone misunderstands us, we can deal with it if they take the time to try to understand us. We respect and appreciate this effort because it's exactly how we operate. When someone dismisses us without attempting to dig deeper, it feels like a rejection of who we are and serves as confirmation that we're different. So of course it hurts deeply when you feel misunderstood! It feels like one of your core desires is not being met.

Other than INTJs, INFJs are the only (very small) segment of the population that uses introverted intuition as their dominant cognitive function. It's a unique way of experiencing the world. It's important to remember that most people you encounter will be focused on using some other dominant cognitive function. Just like you're focused on using your strength, and the thing that's most important to you, they're focused on experiencing the world in the way that's most comfortable to them.

But feeling misunderstood still doesn't feel great, does it?

When you feel misunderstood, do this.

1. Get specific about what you mean when you say "No one understands me." 

There's nothing wrong with "no one understands me" since we've all been there. But that statement comes from a place of powerlessness. We feel helpless. It's like holding up a white flag with "World: 9,597. Me: 0". But you're not powerless or helpless. Use your desire to understand to dig deeper. What, specifically, do you want people to understand about yourself? What types of situations bring the greatest misunderstandings? 

2. Take the opportunity to advocate for yourself.

Now that you know exactly what you want others to understand about you, who in your life needs to know? Plan time to express these things that matter so much to you. Write it out ahead of time and practice saying it out loud if you need to. If someone won't make time to hear what you want to share, are they someone you want in your life?

3. Remember the four parts to any conversation.

There are many factors that can cause misunderstanding in communication. We all filter what we hear through our own experiences, assumptions, and perceptions of the world. The next time you feel misunderstood in a conversation, remember that there are always four things going on:

  1. What you actually said.

  2. What you meant when you said it.

  3. What they heard.

  4. What they took what you said to mean.

When misunderstandings happen, clarify what you meant and what they thought you meant. This simple tool can clear up so many misunderstandings.

What would you add to the list of ways to respond to feeling misunderstood? Comment below to add your idea.